The strange history of Dune and Dune 2, a great “series” of games that had almost no relation

The weird story behind Dune and Dune 2 involves genre changes and a last-minute non-cancellation.

With Dune back in the public eye thanks to The recent film adaptation by Denis Villeneuveyou might be tempted to revisit its various video game adaptations – and wonder why it didn’t have one but of them video game adaptations in 1992, one being nominally a sequel to the other despite sharing nothing in common other than source material. Retro Gamer issue 228 contains the full account of their creation, straight from the makers at the time, and you can grab the whole thing here.

Stephen Clarke-Willson, who worked as a producer on Dune, explained that Dune (it’s the one that’s fair called Dune, with no number or subtitle) was billed “primarily as an adventure game”. When new developer Cryo Interactive got involved, it took more visual inspiration from the 1984 David Lynch film, but it also fell behind. Eventually, publisher Virgin Interactive decided to cancel Dune while staying true to Westwood’s project, the strategy game that would eventually be called Dune 2.

So why was it called Dune 2, and why was it released the same year as the other supposedly canceled project? Well, when Virgin Interactive’s European operations were taken over by Sega around the same time, news of the cancellation apparently went unheard. Sega debriefed its operations soon after and discovered that it had a Dune game in development but no rights to the Dune license. Fortunately, the work done on the game since the transition has been enough to convince Virgin to partner with Sega to bring it to fruition, with some last minute additions bringing Cryo’s game closer to its new “sequel”.

“We had already started down the road with Westwood making a real strategy game, Clarke-Wilsontold Retro Gamer, “and even though we thought the Dune game saved from Cryo death was visually stunning and the first part was a decent adventure game, it needed a bit more gameplay depth. David Bishop worked closely with Cryo on the second half of the game to bring in those strategy elements.

“Of course, being canceled probably wasn’t fun for anyone; but you have to admit that Cryo really pulled a rabbit out of the hat, delivering a build that was good enough not to be undone.”

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